Mold Them While They′re Young | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 12.06.2005
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Mold Them While They're Young

Teenagers have money -- and lots of it. One recent study said that German youths have almost 23 billion euros at their disposal. Companies know that once they've won over a teen, they've probably won over the family.


YOU, the trade fair for adolescents, is a marketer's dream

It is a teenager's dream. Under one roof, they can find the newest video games, fashion items, cell phones and computer gadgets. Over three days, this year's "YOU" youth trade fair in Essen attracted 200,000 teens where they could indulge in unending fun.

They didn't have to pay for a thing. After all, the kids have lots of money at their disposal for later purchases. At YOU, corporate marketers want to etch their product into the visitors' minds. Be it modern and high-tech or classic like Coca-Cola, which of course was handed out at the entrance.

Urbs - Videospiel Screenshot

The Urbs video game

One of the newest trends is event marketing. Concerts, dance and sporting events attract the teens' attention. A soccer tournament, "sponsored by Nokia," is just one example.

"Sponsoring and sporting events are an instrument to reach adolescent target groups," said Cornelia Zanger from the Business Department at the University of Chemnitz. "We've found out in lots of studies that sports is also a way to bring out emotions in youths and that works also for certain products and brands."

It's the emotions

It's no wonder that marketers are toying with the emotions of this group. Those who see their favorite band and drink a soft drink at the concert will later associate that product with the concert's experience.

"The product evokes the positive experience and that then makes us want to buy the product," said Hans-Peter Erb, a social psychologist at the University of Bonn.

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Would every teen girl wear what Britney Spears wears?

Erb explained further that people will file the experience as one "of the world being in order." If that is the case then we let our guard down and are more willing to succumb to the purpose of the marketing strategy.

And with this tactic, people are more susceptible to buy things they don't really need. Erb thinks the classic example is mouthwash. To him bad breath was something that marketers invented so that they could then offer a "cure."

Like son, like father

One thing that turns teenagers off completely is an adult acting as if he or she knows what's better for an adolescent.

"You have to let the teens come to you and explain what is 'in' in the target group and what is good for the group," Zanger said.

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Younger people are usually more on top of the current computer trends

It's worth listening to teens though. Firstly, they are easier to win over as customers. Plus, youths have an extreme amount of influence over what their parents buy. Grandpa probably doesn't know much about computers but his 16-year-old grandson or daughter is probably a whiz. So he'll just ask them what kind of computer he should buy. The same goes for hobbies like rollerblading.

But companies are also keeping demographics in mind. There are fewer and fewer younger people in Germany so building up strong customer loyalty at an early age is vital, according to Zanger.

But marketers and advertisers tread on a thin line. The trick is not to be too pushy so that customers turn their backs and at the same time leave an indelible impression in the person's head -- particularly when there are a thousand other companies with the same goal in mind.

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